While it may be known for its epic landscapes and hyperactive nightlife, Whistler rarely makes headlines for being a cheap place to stay.
That changed this week when a hotel rate report tallied by popular Internet travel site Hotwire started circulating. Taking note of a five per cent overall drop in accommodation prices over the last year, Hotwire included Whistler in its February round up of Canadian resorts with the biggest price decrease.
"It talks about Whistler very positively and shows it is a great place and there is lots of value to be had," said Arlene Schieven, vice president of marketing for Tourism Whistler. "Their numbers aren't consistent with what our numbers would show, they're looking at rooms sold through Hotwire for Whistler in the three star category so it's a very narrow sliver and I'm not sure how much inventory they would have had to sell last February, given that most of it was taken up with the Games. Regardless of that, it's good exposure for Whistler."
Whistler was joined by Banff, Alberta, which experienced a 19 per cent drop in three star hotel rates; Quebec City and Vancouver each saw a nine per cent drop.
"Consistently ranked the number one resort in North America, and featuring two majestic mountains prime for skiing and snowboarding, Whistler's five per cent price drop entices travelers to come to town to play hard and rest easy," states the press release circulated by Hotwire.
Data collected in Hotwire's report is calculated by comparing stay dates for select regions in the current month, prices in the same month in the prior year.
Meanwhile British Columbia has posted its seventh straight month of gains in international overnight visitors, including a jump of 6.2 per cent in people arriving from the U.S., a key market for the province's tourist industry. Whistler has experienced growth from the Washington State market, as well as an increase in short-term visits from regional tourists.
"We're looking at a fairly average year this year. Based on our forecast we were estimating that it was going to be our sixth busiest winter season, to put it in perspective," continued Schieven. "We've just come off a really successful weekend this weekend so we are anxious to see what the results will be for February. We haven't returned to the 07/08 pre-recession numbers, that will be the long term goal and that will take some time as things aren't coming back as quickly as everyone would like."
According the Ministry of Tourism, Trade and Investment, figures released recently by Statistics Canada show a 6.6 per cent increase of overnight visitors entering B.C. in December 2010 compared with the same month in 2009 - nearly triple the 2.4 per cent rise across Canada. This brings the province's total increase in 2010 to four per cent, compared with 2.3 per cent for the country as a whole.
"Starting last June, we've had clear and consistent evidence each and every month that B.C.'s tourism industry is recovering from the global economic slowdown," said Margaret MacDiarmid, Minister of Tourism, Trade and Investment in the press release.
"More people are coming here to experience Supernatural British Columbia in person after seeing our beautiful province on-screen during the 2010 Games. Through Tourism BC's co-coordinated marketing campaigns, we will continue to convert that awareness to visits - and to tourism jobs."
Increases in December included 33 per cent from Australia, 19.1 per cent from South Korea, 11.8 per cent from New Zealand and 11.6 per cent from India. For the entire year, visitors were up from the Asia Pacific by 11.1 per cent and Europe by 8.1 per cent.
However, B.C. saw almost 6.2 per cent fewer visitors from Europe in December, likely reflecting the impact of the worst winter storms in decades, which paralyzed airports in countries including the U.K. (down 4.5 per cent to 11,357) and Germany (down 12.4 per cent to 2,576).
So the 6.2 per cent bounce in American overnight visitors - to 179,965 this past December - was even more welcome.
"Despite our high Canadian dollar, we've seen a resurgence in overnight visitors from the U.S., our largest single tourist market by far, over the past three months," MacDiarmid said.
Tourism is estimated to be worth $12.7 billion in B.C. It provides jobs for nearly 129,000 employees in the province.